http://UPITurns out, woodpeckers do get brain damage. All that pecking comes at a price, new research shows — or does it?Until now, many assumed woodpeckers had a remarkably resilient brain. Woodpeckers absorb 1,200 to 1,400 g’s of force every time they slam their head and beak into a tree. Just 60 to 100 g’s is enough to cause a concussion in humans.”There have been all kinds of safety and technological advances in sports equipment based on the anatomic adaptations and biophysics of the woodpecker assuming they don’t get brain injury from pecking,” Peter Cummings, researcher at the Boston University School of Medicine, said in a news release. “The weird thing is, nobody’s ever looked at a woodpecker brain to see if there is any damage.”When scientists analyzed the brains of woodpeckers from collections at Chicago’s Field Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History, they discovered elevated levels of tau, a protein linked with degenerative brain disease in humans.In moderation, tau proteins support healthy brain function.”The basic cells of the brain are neurons, which are the cell bodies, and axons, which are like telephone lines that communicate between the neurons,” said researcher George Farah. “The tau protein wraps around the telephone lines — it gives them protection and stability while still letting them remain flexible.”But brain damage can cause tau to accumulate and begin sabotaging brain function instead of supporting it.”Cognitive, emotional, and motor function can be compromised,” said Cummings.Just as has been found in the brains of athletes who sustain multiple brain injuries during their careers, woodpecker brains featured larger amounts of tau than the brains of similarly sized, non-pecking peers.Scientists can’t be certain that the woodpeckers suffer brain injuries, but the evidence suggests they do. “If pecking was going to cause brain injury, why would you still see this behavior? Why would evolutionary adaptations stop at the brain? There’s possibility that the tau in woodpeckers is a protective adaptation and maybe not pathological at all. “Is there something we can pick out to help humans with neurodegenerative diseases?” Cummings said. “The door’s wide open to find out what’s going on and how we can apply this to humans.”
I’m happy to report that as a society we’re ready to talk about the effects of woodpeckers continuously bashing their heads against wood. It’s something we’ve all been thinking about but to afraid to talk about in an open forum. Well, now it’s safe enough to bring up with your families, friends and co-workers. For to long we’ve just brushed it off and said the woodpeckers are fine that what they’re doing is exactly how they’re designed. Research says otherwise. Apparently, bashing your skull a trillion times against a tree is actually bad for the brain and the scientists have figured this out. Thank you scientists. Count this as a W.
I’m guessing that the commissioner of wood pecking is none to pleased with these findings. Expect a slew of lawsuits to come forth from past wood peckers who can barely fly who made wood pecking what is is today but were forgotten by the people who employed them. Tons of back and forth from the wood pecking league to the wood peckers association will follow and eventually there will be a movie starring Chris Pratt showing the effects of wood pecking and how the wood pecking league covered up what they knew about prolonged head bashing. Yep, this is far from over but at least take solace in the fact that we’re having a conversation at all. All I know is a certain someone needs to be the face of the cause